Wednesday, August 12, 2009


By Zacharias P. Thundy, Professor Emeritus, Northern Michig,an University

This essay is a short response to Professor Michael Lockwood, the brilliant author of Buddhism’s Relation to Christianity (Chennai, 2010), who wonders that “the Gospel of John makes no mention of the temptation of Jesus by the devil”(p. 37) at all, and to Professor Christian Lindtner, who always challenges us all to rethink our received ideas about the New Testament in the light of the pre-Christian Buddhist literary tradition and who has made the intriguing statement that Jesus was a Sanskrit scholar.  While this essay may appear to be subversive, it is not. It is simply an attempt to redefine the origins and continuity of the literary traditions of the followers of Jesus as they encountered the literary and cultural contexts in which the early Christian traditions had taken shape.

I owe, however, the original inspiration for this essay to the seminal ideas hinted at briefly by an original thinker, J. Edgar Bruns, a Catholic priest-theologian, who concludes his path-breaking short study, published in 1971, on the presence of Buddhist ideas in the Gospel of John as follows:

The interpretation of Johannine Christology and theology here given may be said to emerge from the Johannine writings themselves [the Fourth Gospel and 1 John], but the cogency of the interpretation rests heavily on the similarity of what is presented as John’s thought-structure to that of certain Mahayana Buddhist teachings with which, we may justifiably surmise, John was familiar.  It is unlikely that a first-century Christian would have constructed a theology so radically different from both Judaic and Hellenistic models unless he drew his inspiration from another cultural milieu. …The fact that the Johannine writings were eventually accepted into the canon means that they were not really understood…..  Perhaps the supposed apostolic authority of John was operative in his case.

    In our own day, of course, we have been exposed to Leslie Dewart’s profound analysis of the Christian concept of God and to his conclusion that God, indeed, is not a being, a conclusion which he finds in no way incompatible with the mysteries of our faith.[1]

But further questions remain.  If John’s allegedly Buddhist theology, Christology, and eschatology do not exceed the bounds of “orthodoxy,” what meaning, in such a system, could other defined doctrines have?[2]

  This essay suggests that the entire Fourth Gospel has one dominant theme: Jesus' (Buddha's) contest and final victory over killer Satan (Mara, the god of death). Let us look, at the fascinating story of the Temptation of Jesus found in the Gospels attributed to Matthew (4:1-11), Mark 1: 12-13, Luke (4:1-13), and also John  vis-á-vis its Buddhist counter-stories.  I would encourage a potential student to develop this idea into a doctoral thesis or book; that willing person has my approval and good wishes for success.

Temptation Stories: Buddhist and Christian

                According to Matthew and Luke, Jesus, after having fasted for forty days and [after having been enlightened like the Buddha], is overcome by hunger while in the wilderness; the devil tempts him and demands that Jesus turn stones into bread, throw himself down from Temple pinnacle, and worship him (the devil) in order to become the master of the world; Jesus rebukes the devil, who “departs from him for a while.”  Here is the Christian version of the temptation of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew in the King James Version:

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.  And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward ahungred.  And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.  But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.  Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.  Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.  Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;  and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.  Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.  Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him (4:1-11).

What is tantalizing here is that several pre-Christian Buddhist tales contain more or less the same temptation story.[3] 

Though in the Buddhist tradition Mara appears indifferent guises or with different interpretations, in the temptation stories he appears as a demon or as the embodiment of the power of evil who tries to seduce Buddha with the vision of beautiful women.  The wordmara comes from the root mr, which means “die”; that is, Mara, the demon is associated with death just as the Devil is in the writings of John: “He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning…. He is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44-45). 

The Buddhist texts in general include the following: Buddha’s temptation in solitude, the devil in person with the name of Mara, fast and hunger, rejection of the request for the miracle of transformation of the Himalaya mountain into gold (with an indirect reference of turning stone into meat in the Padhana Sutta[4]), the specific demand of voluntary suicide (entering into nirvana), and the generous offer of dominion over kingdom,[5]  and the temptation that Buddha commit suicide.

To summarize the longish Buddhist passages (especially the first one) of the Maha Parinibbana Sutra: When Buddha had attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree (the tree of knowledge)[6] and had extinguished all desire within himself, he finally escaped the power of the Evil One.  Being well aware of this, the Evil One still cherished the hope of keeping mankind in his fetters, and so he wanted the Enlightened One to abandon his mission of proclaiming the truth he had obtained and to depart from this life.  He addressed Buddha: “Now that he has obtained Enlightenment, may the Exalted One enter into Nirvana.”  Knowing the true intentions of the Evil One, Buddha declares that he would not put an end to his life until he had assembled enough disciples, monks, nuns, and converts in order to ensure the continuance of his doctrine and virtuous living among mankind.[7] Interestingly, the Buddhist Scriptures give elaborate theological explanations to the temptation stories; on the other hand, the Synoptic Gospels seem to present the temptation scenes as a tightly organized short debate with each side quoting Hebrew Scriptures to make his point, which is not the case in the Fourth Gospel. 

The Fourth Gospel: A Buddhist Sutra?

The Fourth Gospel, to repeat, is the most Buddhist of all the Gospels, as J. Edgar Bruns would argue[8]; it is full of ambiguities, ironies, and double meanings, and  it has “made use Mahayana Buddhist concepts.”[9]  This Gospel incorporates elements of the Temptation story in very subtle ways in different places of the narrative.  The reason the Fourth Gospel refuses to narrate the temptation as a single episode is that John’s Jesus is enlightened or divine from the very beginning of his earthly existence as the bodhisattva in human body and did not need to strive or fast or do austerities in order to reach enlightenment or to obtain Buddhahood or apotheosis.  I would even claim that the entire Gospel is an elaborate Christianized/Hellenized exposition of the temptation story of Mara and Buddha or of the battle between the forces of good and evil or of the on-going confrontation between light and darkness, life and death.  The Prologue of the Gospel puts it thus:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, (ton theon) and the word was divine (theos).  He was in the beginning with God. … In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines and the darkness has not overcome it. …To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God (Jn 1:1-12).

        As in the case of Jesus, there is reason to believe that even while Buddha was alive his disciples considered him as a divine being.  He was called Bhagavat (“the Lord”, Jina(“the conqueror”), Tathagata (“the one who has come the same way”), Sugata (“well gone”),Mahapurusha (“the great person”) and so on.  Once the Brahmin Drona, seeing the Master sitting at the foot of a tree and noticing the mysterious marks on Buddha’s feet, asked him “Are you a god (deva)? And the Lord answered: “I am not.”  Are you a celestial being (gandharva)? “I am not.”  “Are you a spiritual apparition (yaksha)?  “I am not.”  “Are you a man?”  “I am not.”  Buddha spoke to the Brahmin: “O Brahmin, truly I was a god, a celestial being, a spiritual apparition, a man as long as I had not purged myself of fluxes.  Brahmin, just as a lotus or water lily born of the water … remains unstained by the water, even so, Brahmin, being born of the world … I remain unstained by the world.  Therefore, Brahmin, consider me as the enlightened one.”[10]

A comparison of the Buddhist quotation given above with John the Baptist’s testimony found in John chapter 1, printed below will not only show close accidental resemblance between the two passages but rather John’s adaptation of the Buddhist text or its variants.

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?  And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.  Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?  He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.  And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.  And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?  John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.  These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.  The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.  This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.  And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.  And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.  And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.  And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God (1:19-34).

Temptation Stories and the Fourth Gospel

Six examples from the Fourth Gospel that elaborate on the theme of temptation are given below.

First, John introduces the figure of Mara, who attacks Buddha with an army, in the persona of Judas, in whom the devil enters after he has received the sop from Jesus (13:21-30):”Satan entered into him” (13:27); like Mara, Judas leads a band of men and officers, invades Jesus’ space with weapons, and has Jesus arrested; before Jesus is led away, there is sword-play with Peter cutting off the ear of Malchus (a word play on Mara? (18: 3-11).  Just as Mara’s troops are routed by Buddha, Judas’ posse is also discomfited by Jesus: ”As soon as he said, ‘I am he,’ they went backward and fell to the ground” (18:6).  John calls the enemy that hated him as the “world” on other occasions (Jn 18-20);  more often it is the Jewish establishment that is the enemy that tries to do away with him.[11]

Second, Jesus’ enemies hint that Jesus may commit suicide and to Jesus’ response that he is immortal/divine and hence cannot die or be killed are given in the following verses:  Then Jesus said to them: “I go my way, and you shall seek me and shall die in your sins; whither I go, you cannot come.”  Then said the Jews, “Will he kill himself, because he says, whither I go you cannot come?”  And he said to them “You are from beneath; I am from above; you are of this world; I am not of this world. … for, if you do not believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins. … Before Abraham was, I am.  Then they took up stone to cast at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple, going through their midst” (8:21-58).  Like Buddha, Jesus refuses to seek nirvana or commit suicide before his appointed time or before he has preached his gospel to humankind.

Third, the Samaritan woman in the Fourth Gospel (4:1-30) seems to embody the features of the three allegorical daughters of Mara--Tanha (thirst with obvious implications of desire for earthly satisfactions even as in "I Thirst"--words uttered by Jesus from the cross), Arati (greed, excessive desire for food, sexual promiscuity or boredom at least in the sense that she was bored with five husbands and/or all the prideful riches that came with the men), and Raga (lust/beauty). Mara's three daughters fail to entice Buddha[12].  Perhaps John is referring to these Buddhist allegories in the following verse: “All that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but of the world [Mara]” (1 John 2:16).  John also calls the mortal Enemy “Antichrist” (1 John  2:18-22).  Further, the Fourth Gospel seems subtly to associate Mara, the god of death--within the context of the Prakrti’s affections for Ananda--with Kamadeva, the god of love, in this encounter of Jesus with a woman who is in “love” with her men within and outside of marriage.[13]

Fourth, John’s Jesus does not turn stones into bread or the Himalaya into gold, but he turns water into wine (Jn 2:1-13) in the very mundane context of a wedding feast, apparently manifesting his “divine” powers and evidently inspiring faith in his followers, according to the Evangelist.[14] 

Fifth, it is noteworthy that the Buddhavamsa Commentary and Nidanakatha of theJataka commentary, particularly in the Sinhalese versions, unfold a very lively and detailed account of Mara’s visit to Buddha just before his Enlightenment, when he is sitting under the Bodhi tree. Mara tries to dissuade the future Buddha from the path of the Buddhahood by falsely claiming Buddha’s seat as his own; and by asking him to prove his right to the seat on which he is sitting. All the followers of Mara then testify Mara’s claim by shouting that the seat actually belongs to Mara.  As Buddha has no other witness to bear testimony on his behalf he asks the Earth to speak for him by touching the ground with his middle finger.  The Earth then roars in response and bears the testimony for the Buddha by thundering, “I stand as his witness”. Thus, Mara is defeated: he and his followers flee the scene. John does not refer literally to the allegory of the seat contest but rather to Jesus’ claim to be the son of Man or Christ with the presumed right to teach from the chair of Abraham or Moses (on Mount Sinai) (Exodus 19;16; John 12:29-34) and refers to a heavenly voice: “Now is my soul troubled … Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, … ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again’” (12:27).[15]   John also refers to the defeat of the devil in several verses: “Now is the judgment of this world. Now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (12:31); “For the prince of this world comes and has nothing in me.” (14:30); “The prince of this world is judged” (16:11).

Sixth, the Devas and other celestial beings celebrate Buddha’s victory over Mara. A comparison of the Buddhist and Christian stories shows that as in the Buddhist literary tradition the Gospels also refer to angels ministering to Jesus after the departure of the Devil: “When the devil has left him, angels came and ministered unto him.”(Matt.3:11).  After referring earlier to Nathanael sitting under the fig tree (Bodhi tree), the Jesus of John says in the Buddhist context of Mara's temptation and Buddha's enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, "Hereafter you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the son of man” (Jn 1:5;  see also Gen. 28:12, where angels ascend and descend on Jacob).

Conclusion and chronology

Briefly stated, John does not give the Temptation episode in one single narrative but scatters ideas embodied in the temptation story in several parts of his Gospel.  As has been made clear above, the Buddhist theological ideas are deeply embedded in all the Four Gospels in the sense that Jesus, like Buddha, postpones his death on numerous occasions[16], while he is preaching his truth and sending out his disciples to preach the same.

Chronologically speaking, the Buddhist Temptation stories are much older than their Gospel renditions since we find Mara’s attack and Temptation as well as the scene of Buddha receiving homage from the animals of the forest [17]carved in stone on the North Gate and East Gate of Stupa I at Sanchi respectively, dating from the first century BCE.[18]

The upshot of this short discussion is simply that Jesus appears, indeed, also as a Buddha figure when Christian and Buddhist temptation stories are compared.[19] In this sense, to use Christian Lindtner’s favorite metaphor, Jesus is Buddha; on the other hand, if you prefer a simile, the Jesus of the Gospels or the Jesus of faith/myth is like the Buddha of faith/myth celebrated in the Mahayana Buddhism.


As an aside, let me add as well the following observations, apropos Christian Lindtner’s assessment of the Jesus of the Gospels as a good Sanskrit scholar.   Professor Michael Lockwood goes further and argues that Professor Lindtner has even firmly established that the Greek New Testament is a patchwork of various passages from Buddhist scriptures, originally written in Sanskrit and Pali.[20] Professor Lindtner continues to challenge us all to re-think and re-evaluate all received teachings.

    I would like to add my own speculative commentary based on a critical reading of the Gospels as literary texts, which are in genre narrative and/or homiletic midrashim; that is, the Gospels are also the Hebrew Bible re-written--besides being Buddhist Bible re-written, as Lindtner would forcefully argue; or as midrash they are also  “completely rewritten biblical narrative(s) embellished with legends and non-biblical traditions.”[21]   My position is that the Gospels are “fuzzy” texts that are both Buddhist and Jewish, giving us a tertium quid or engendering the product, which we may call the “Christian” Bible, enfolding in itself numerous subtexts from other sources like classical, Egyptian, Gnostic, etc.  Their name is “legion.”

    .  To Christian Lindtner’s observation about Jesus’ Sanskrit scholarship, I would add that Jesus was also probably fairly well conversant in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin to the extent that he could even preach in those languages. In this context I tend to agree with Michael Lockwood’s and Acharya Murdock's view that Egypt played an important role in the formation and formulation of Jesus' teaching in the sense that Jesus and his entourage of disciples in Africa and later in Palestine through him became well acquainted with the heterodox Alexandrian version of Judaism, Alexandrian version of Buddhism, Greek thought, and with other religious philosophies current at that time in the academic world of cosmopolitan Egypt.  Probably the best argument in support of the Alexandrian connection comes from the fact that the Gospel writers had all used the Alexandrian version of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, in their works and not the Bible composed in Hebrew and Aramaic!

    The so-called “historical” Jesus of Palestine and Egypt I am referring to is the one who stands at the head of the various Jesus Movements, known today as Christianity (causal determinism, according to which every event has a cause or like effects have like causes).  However, this historical Jesus is also an elusive or indeterministic figure (physical indeterminism — the doctrine that “not all events in the physical world are predetermined with absolute precision," As Karl Popper explains it).  Jesus is elusive like a sub-atomic particle, whose position in actual geographic place and momentum in exact historical time we cannot locate at the same time because the observer always skews the perception and the object of the perception, leading to the Principle of Indeterminism of Quantum Physics, but the particle is real though its trajectories are fuzzy.  In fact, I like Morton smith’s indeterministic view  of the Jesus phenomenon:

Trying to find the actual Jesus is like trying, in atomic physics, to locate a submicroscopic particle and determine its charge.  The particle cannot be seen directly, but on a photographic plate we see the lines set by the trajectories of larger particles it put in motion.  By tracing these trajectories back to their common origin, and by calculating the force necessary to make the particles move as they did, we can locate and describe the invisible cause.  Admittedly, history is more complex than physics; the lines connecting the original figure to the developed legends cannot be traced with mathematical accuracy; the intervention of unknown factors has to be allowed for.  Consequently, results can never claim more than probability; but “probability,” as Bishop Butler said, “is the very guide of life.”[22]

    There are hints to the Jesus of the Gospel literature spending a good deal of time in Alexandria, North Africa, and Upper Egypt in the company of fellow Nazorean and/or Essene Jews, yet with some family connections to the priestly clan (Jesus’ uncle Zechariah was a priest, as in Luke 1:5). My theory is that Jesus’ family belonged to the unorthodox or non-rabbinic Nazorean group of John the Baptist, probably the original founder of the Nazorean Movement.  Jesus was sent by this group as well as by some priests in Jerusalem (Jesus’ teachers, who were impressed by the talent and potential of the young boy, as suggested in Luke 2: 41-52), to Egypt for higher studies.  Realistically speaking, it was very unlikely that Jesus went as an infant to Egypt, as suggested by Matthew 2: 13-23; rather he was an adolescent as Luke (2:39-52) seems to suggest.  Jesus stayed in Egypt--without totally rejecting the possibility that Jesus even lived in India-- studying and practicing asceticism  till he was maybe 29 or 30.  If we bear in mind that the genre of the first three Gospels-- especially of Matthew, Mark, and Luke with john being homiletic midrash[23]--is midrash, the chronological discrepancy will cease to be an issue here. midrash often blurs the boundaries of time and place, as we see in the Jewish midrashic writings of the rabbis:  Yerushalmi writes:

Unlike the biblical writers the rabbis seem to play with Time as though with an accordion, expanding and collapsing at will.  Where historical specificity is a hallmark of the biblical narratives, here that acute biblical sense of time and place often gives way to rampant and seemingly unselfconscious anachronism.  In the world of aggadah Adam can instruct his son Seth in the Torah, Shem and Eber establish a house of study, the patriarchs institute the three daily prayer-services of the normative Jewish liturgy, Og King of Bashan is present at Isaac’s circumcision, and Noah prophesies the translation of Bible into Greek.[24]

Interestingly, his earthly father is given the appropriate name Joseph after Patriarch Joseph, who had lived and died in Egypt; there is no reason to believe Father Joseph ever returned from Egypt since he is not mentioned at all during the public ministry of Jesus, according to the Gospels. The name play on "Joseph" word meaning " He increased" seems to suggest that Jesus’ family, like Patriarch Joseph’s family, did prosper in Egypt.  I suspect that the Evangelist John is using a pun on Jesus’ surname of Joseph as in “Jesus bar Joseph,” when the Baptist says, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30).  Also, the Baptist seemsed to be indicating that he was retiring to make room for the new leadership of Jesus.  However, it also looks like that Jesus had become too well educated in Egypt to be accepted back fully into the Nazorean community.  Apparently his cousin John wanted the young Rabbi Jesus to take over the reins of the group after his departure from earthly existence either through his ascension (Mandean belief adumbrated even in the Christian/Jewish tradition that the Baptist will come again before the end of the world) or after his death (Christian/Muslim tradition), but other elders of the Nazorean community excommunicated Jesus (Luke 4: 16-32), when they found out that he was an unorthodox rabbi who would preach strange sermons, reflecting Buddhist/Egyptian ideas.

I would even suggest that John’s specific reference to the titulus on the cross (John 19: 19-20) written in Greek, Aramaic, and Latin was to indicate that Jesus used to preach in three languages to the three ethnic or linguistic crowds—Greeks –as in John 12:20-26--, Romans—as in Jesus’ dialogue with the Roman Pilate (Jn 18:28-38) --, and Jews--see John chapters 8-10--, some of whom became disciples according to the Gospel testimony-- that thronged to listen to him. The fact that he could read Isaiah in Hebrew, as in Luke 3: 16-20, would indicate that, if needed, he could even preach in Hebrew to the Hebrew-speaking Jews. The suggestion that Jesus had a North African friend or acquaintance by the name Simon of Cyrene, father of Rufus and Alexander (Mark 15:21), would indicate that he kept up with his African connections as well.

The Gospel writers tried to put together many of Jesus' teachings and doings from various sources, as Luke puts it in the prologue to his Gospel. They do not appear to have delved as deeply into the Buddhist sources of Jesus’ life and teachings as John, who, in my view, understood the Mahayana Buddhist background of Jesus better than the other three Gospel writers and their editors, who collected/edited some of his sayings as best as they could,[25] which were later heavily edited (probably Hebraicized with a geneous sprinkling of citations and proof texts from the Hebrew Bible) by redactors.  Of course, John also was edited but not to a great extent; so John’s Gospel remains the most Buddhist of the four Gospels.   As a result, the Gospels that we have today, as described above, are “fuzzy” Christian texts— Buddhist and Jewish in their origin and evolution.


[1] Leslie Dewart, The Future of Belief (New York, 1966) and The Foundations of Belief (New York, 1969).

[2] Bruns, The Christian Buddhism of John, pp. 51-52. 

[3] See Richard Garbe, India and Christendom (La Salle, Il: Open Court, 1959): 50-56 for a careful analysis; for an extensive study, see Ernst Windisch, Mara und Buddha(Leipzig, 1895). See details of the temptation in the Paddhana Sutra, Samyutta Nikaya, and Maha Prinibbana Sutra.

[4]Padhana Sutta, Sutta Nipata, III.2, trans. John Ireland: “Mara: "For seven years I followed the Lord step by step but did not find an opportunity to defeat that mindful Awakened One. A crow flew around a stone having the colour of fat: 'Can we find even here something tender? May it be something to eat?'Not finding anything edible the crow left that place.”

[5]Samyutta Nikaya, trans. H. Oldenberg; cited by Richard Garbe, p. 53:”At one time the Exalted One (Buddha) was living in the land of Kosala, in the Himalaya, in a log hut….He thought: ’It is really possible to rule as a king in righteousness without killing or causing to be killed…without suffering pain or inflicting pain on another.’  Then Mara, the Evil One, perceived in his mind the thoughts of the Buddha and spoke thus:’’May the Exalted One be pleased to rule as a king in righteousness without killing…without suffering pain or inflicting pain on another….ˆIf the Exalted One…desired, he could ordain that the Himalaya, the king of the mountains should become gold, and it would turn into gold.’  Buddha motions him away. ‘What would it profit the wise man if he possessed even a mountain of silver or of gold?  He who has comprehended sorrow, whence it springs, how can he bend himself to desire?  … Then Mara the Evil One said, ‘The Exalted One knows me,”… and disconcerted and disheartened he rose and went away.”

[6]The Fourth Gospel refers to the enlightenment episode and Mara’s acknowledgment of Siddhartha’s Buddha status in the story of Nathanael: “When you were under the fig tree, I saw you; Nathanael says to him, ’Rabbi, you are the son of God; you are the King of Israel’” (John  1:48-49).

[7] Garbe, 55.

[8] Bruns, The Christian Buddhism of John, passim.

[9] J. Edgar Bruns, The Art and Thought of John , p. 90.

[10]Anguttara Nikaya 2: 37-38; cited by Zacharias Thundy, Buddha and Christ: Nativity Stories and Indian Taditions (Leiden: Brill, 1993), p. 58.

[11] I tend to think that we find more anti-Mara/Devil statements rather than anti-Semitic statements in the Fourth Gospel, for the “Jews,” the enemies of Jesus are truly a figure of speech for or allegory of Mara.. Therefore, reading too much anti-Semitism in the fourth Gospel is the wrong approach to the study of that Gospel.

[12]It looks like John combines the persona of Ananda with that of Jesus in the story of the Samaritan woman with the implication of marriage and sex, while alluding also to the encounter of Rachel and Jacob at the well (Gen. Ch. 29).  The clue lies in the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman that he can give her "living water" (4:10). Combine this with the water drops (semen?) from the side of Jesus on the cross after the piercing of his side.  It looks like John is not averse to the notion of Jesus even being married as Buddha was married to Yashodhara in order to connect Jesus to Buddha indirectly, perhaps even implying that the marriage celebration recorded by John in chapter 4 of his Gospel is the celebration of Jesus’ own marriage—an idea expressed as spiritual marriage in the Book of Apocalypse, attributed to the authorship of John. Obviously, John is only toying with the idea of Jesus’ marriage without admitting or denying it.  From a literary perspective, one may even talk about the “Disciple whom Jesus loved” as a son-figure like Rahula in the life of Buddha.  We have to make the careful distinction between the Jesus of Myth/Faith with the historical Jesus, of whom we know precious little.

[13] Michael Lockwood, Buddhism’s Relationship to Christianity. (Chennai, 2010), p.  36.

[14] Perhaps one may suggest that the wedding at Cana can be viewed at least symbolically as Jesus’ own wedding, where the bridegroom and his mother are responsible to feed the guests with food and wine.  It is remarkable, Jesus leaves the wedding scene not with the bride but with his mother, brothers, and disciples for Capernaum—almost like Buddha who leaves behind his wife but accepts his mother and relatives into his community.

[15] Both Matthew  20:20-28 and Mark 10: 35-45 refer to the request of the mother of Zebedee’s children James and John that they sit one on the right hand and the other on the left hand in Jesus’ kingdom; the other ten disciples became indignant with the two brothers.

[16]“My hour has not yet come”—John 2:4; 7:30;12:23; 12:27; 16:32.

[17] See Mark 1: 12-13: “Thereupon the spirit sent him away into the wilderness, and there he remained for forty days tempted by Satan.  He was among the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

[18] Michael Lockwood, Buddhism’s Relationship to Christianity. (Chennai, 2010), p. 36: “Mara is seen seated [just to the left of] the middle of the panel as a god of the sixth heaven with an umbrella over his head.  The Bodhi tree at the left represents the would-be Buddha symbolically.  Sujata [the small figure, to the extreme left] appears with an offering of food for him.  The figure opposite [standing, immediately to the right of the tree] also represents Mara [worshipping the Buddha-to-be, post-conflict] with one of his sons and daughters.  On the extreme right are the grimacing figures of his army.  The panel portrays the contest between Mara, the lord of the world of desire, and the Bodhisattva, the annihilator of lusts and desires.

[19]I can make the same observation about Buddhist-Christian stories of the presentation in the temple, multiplication of loaves, walking on water, the prodigal son, and so on, as Garbe and I have already done in other works.  See Garbe, India and Christendom, passim and Zacharias Thundy, Buddha and Christ (Leiden, 1993), passim, just for two examples.

[20] Lockwood, p. 250: “Around the end of the first century CE, the allegorical narratives of the New Testament Gospels began to be introduced in the(se) Gnostic crypto-Buddhist voluntary associations/synagogues (the proto ‘Christian churches’) by scholars of the School of Alexandria, who were crypto-Buddhist/Gnostic proselytizers. … Early Gnostic scholars were, in fact, the very creators of what were to become the canonical Gospels of the New Testament—allegorical narratives about Jesus the Messiah composed using a strange but ingenious process of creatively translating into Greek of the New Testament a patchwork of various passages from Buddhist scriptures, originally written in Sanskrit and Pali.  The use of this method of ‘transcreation’ from Sanskrit and Pali into Greek has been firmly established by Christian Lindtner.”

[21]  Addison Wright, Midrash (New York, 1967), 58-59.

[22] Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician (New York: Harper, 1978), p. 6.

[23] Homiletic midrash gives interpretive material of select scriptural passages in the form of homilies.  John seems to be to a greater extent a combination narrative and homiletic midrash like the Synoptic Gospels.

[24] Y. H. Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish memory (Seattle: U Washington Press, 1996), p. 17.

[25] I wonder whether John (21;25)  is indirectly referring to the collection of Buddhist writings found in the great library of Alexandria when he says: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written everyone, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

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